MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Trump Administration is looking to add more transparency to the costs of medical treatment. This week, President Trump signed an executive order that would force hospitals to reveal the actual price of medical services before patients receive care.
It’s aimed at ending surprise billing practices that largely affect patients across the country. The executive order goes beyond disclosure of actual prices, it also requires hospitals to list the price insurances companies will pay for those services.
The order calls for hospitals to list “shoppable services,” now it’s up to the Health and Human Services Department, or HHS, to determine what falls under that category.
“It’s easy to think it might be MRI, CT Scans, diagnostic procedures, or common services that would be available through a variety of providers,”, stated Danne Howard, Executive Vice President of the Alabama Hospital Association. “It wouldn’t be some of the more complex cases.”
The order calls for HHS to publish the proposed rules in 60 days for public comment. Howard says it’s difficult to comment on how this will impact the association’s members.
“Our hospitals are in favor of getting consumers the tools they need to better make health care decisions”, she said.
While the administration says this order will drive down health care costs, there’s a real concern it could do the opposite.
“I was in Washington when the executive order came out, that was some of the concerns that were voiced, among other things,” Howard explained. “The possibility of driving up prices when one provider sees what a negotiated right from another provider was, then there’s an opportunity to be unhappy and ask for a higher reimbursement rate for some comparable services. That’s definitely a possibility, and there are some concerns about that on the federal level.”
The order also calls for an expansion of services offered through health savings accounts.
“It directs there to be some new regulations on what expenses can be covered under HSAs and also to allow people to carry forward more of their spending savings than you have in years past,” said Howard.
Other organizations like the American Association of Retired People, or AARP, remain cautiously optimistic.
“It’s going to take some work for the secretary of HHS to figure out some the details, and we stand with the department as they work through that process,” said Evey Owen, Interim Associate Director of Communications for AARP Alabama. “It’s a first step and it’s a good step in the right direction.”
The rules on shoppable service prices will be posted by late August.